Located close to the bottom tip of the Kintyre Peninsula near Campbeltown its remoteness, and therefore its magical appeal, is not as obvious as it perhaps was decades ago. Getting there, either by land, sea or air is a much easier (and quicker) task than it was in years gone by.
A new kid on the block, Machrihanish Dunes built in the last few years and undoubtedly another top class links course, also means that the original Machrihanish no longer stands in splendid isolation.
There’s no denying that both of the above points are advantageous for both the traveling golfer and the Club itself but Machrihanish is now no more remote (read magical) than many other first class links courses in the UK. Growing up as a child and hearing about Machrihanish it always seemed that it was this mysteriousness that made it so special.
None of the above actually makes any difference to the golf course though and I can vouch that a round at Machrihanish is almost as good as it gets. The drive down from Fort William we made that morning to play the course was equally as satisfying.
Dubbed the greatest opening tee-shot in Scottish golf the drive at the first hole, over the beach or sea depending upon the tide, is certainly iconic but may not be quite as fearsome as it was in the days of hickory clubs and without the benefits of the modern golf ball. Still, it’s a terrific tee shot where you must bite off as much as you dare for a better angle of approach down the left.
The marrow of the course at Machrihanish, the part that really delivers, is the run of holes from the third through to the 15th. During this excellent stretch of scintillating links golf it rarely misses a beat. And were it not for a weak finishing trio of holes I would regard this course as one of my all-time favourites.
In truth the fun begins with the green complex at the second but it’s the approach to the third hole that really grabs your attention, as classic a looking championship links hole as you could hope for with a rolling green complex that just fits so naturally into the surrounding land.
The entire course is not long and infinitely playable with a variety of green sites that help make this such an enjoyable golf course.
Five strong par fours, played through a fluid dune system, take you to the turn and towards the inland side of the sandhills, where you might expect the golf to be blander, but the course continues to deliver with the excellent par five 10th. Over the next five holes the course does very slowly begin to fizzle out, the sparkle has gone but the holes remain solid; green complexes at the 13th and 15th the highlights.
Sadly the course doesn’t quite keep the momentum going until the very end. The 16th, the second of back-to-back par three’s doesn’t quite work for me whilst holes 17 and 18 return to the flatter land adjacent to the opening two holes.
The finish does leave a slight sour taste in your mouth but only because what came before it was so good and you just wish that it had continued to deliver over the final three holes. Regardless of this a visit to Machrihanish is a must for any serious golfer who has a love for pure links golf.
There is also a separate nine-hole layout at Machrihanish. Located adjacent to the main course “The Pans”, in traditional fashion, runs out for five holes before turning back for home. The first tee is situated a few hundred yards from the pro-shop.
It’s played over linksland although with it being located more inland there is a slightly softer feel to the fairways. As you would expect the condition isn’t of the same standard as the championship course, nor is the challenge, but I spent a very enjoyable hour whizzing around the course and would recommend it.
There are a couple of belting par-threes early on in the round (1st and 3rd) with the best of the golf found between the 5th and 7th at the far end of the links where we find wonderfully crumpled ground to negotiate and some cute little green complexes with many swales and hollows. The fairways of the 4th and 8th are less inspiring but that apart there is much to enjoy on the par 34, 2,376-yard layout.
For £10 it’s good value for money if you have some additional time to spare whilst at Machrihanish where you could quite easily just take half a dozen clubs in a pencil bag and have a whirl. The course certainly plays better than it looks from the main course.
Copt Heath is a very fine parkland golf course that requires precision, plotting and a deft touch around the slick greens.
The Blue is a mix of American-style design and traditional English parkland. It's an unusual combination which makes the most of the terrain available. It was designed by Simon Gidman and opened in 1994.